20-02-05 ARTS Love It W.jpg

From left, Melodie Taylor-Mauldin, John Mauldin, Aly Wepplo and David Janeski star in a primarily local ensemble.

Love is in the air! Or, at least, give it a week and it ought to be.

Valentine’s Day is the next holiday on the calendar, and while the cynical at heart may delight at the easy cannon fodder of mushy sentiments, derivative symbolism, lazy greeting cards and sappy radio love ballads, this is truly a time to take stock of the things and people one holds nearest and dearest.

Skiers delight at February snowfall, but for others, it can be a dreary month—especially when it begins with a subterranean rodent bidding us all six more weeks of winter. Valentine’s Day offers the common folk a little ray of light—a rosy, saccharin, loveable ray.

Here in the Wood River Valley, Valentine’s Day will be a celebration of art, community and love in all its forms—romantic, familial, platonic and more—in two performances of a new musical cabaret revue starring R.L. Rowsey and Melodie Taylor-Mauldin presented by The Argyros in association with Sawtooth Productions.

The program, “Love It!,” will showcase almost exclusively local Wood River talent. Regional favorites, under the musical direction of Rowsey and artistic direction of Taylor-Mauldin, will perform a joyous program of music, poetry, dance routines and anecdotes in full costumes and with a total theatrical production backing them up.

John Mauldin, David Janeski, Aly Wepplo, Chris Carwithen, Andrew Alburger, Courtney Loving, Ward Loving (one has to appreciate getting two Lovings in this show), Teddy Cunningham and Terresa Shreve round out the cast.

Cunningham and Shreve, while not locals themselves, have worked with the others on many a previous show and, as Taylor-Mauldin put, contribute to “a wonderful chemistry we all have.”

She elaborated on that point, saying, “We all work together so well and the audience will get to enjoy that. They’ll be able to tell there’s a history between all of us. It’s a sincere, authentic feeling that we all go way back and it’ll make for a nice intimacy.”

That sense of intimacy with the audience was an important consideration for Taylor-Mauldin as she assembled the program. Cabaret is, traditionally, performed in small cafes and nightclubs, not big theaters like The Argyros’ Tierney Theater.

Taylor-Mauldin and Rowsey hardly see that as a hindrance, however. Some table seating by the stage will certainly help, as will the theater’s state-of-the-art sound and lighting capabilities, but the key ingredient is the chemistry between cast members. Granted, there are a few couples in the ensemble, but just as the program looks well beyond romantic love, so does its cast.

“We’re having a blast,” Rowsey said. “What a great group of local folks—and a couple of friends from out of the area. It’s a group of people who all truly like each other. We were saying at rehearsal the other night that this is exactly the group of people we’d all like to have dinner with, but we never have time.”

If this newspaper section can be taken as an indicator, then what Rowsey says is true—they do not have time to casually get together. The names listed above seem to crop up every month in area plays for Company of Fools, The Spot, St. Thomas Playhouse, various musical groups, festivals, etc. They do keep busy.

Jon Kane, director of Sawtooth Productions and a co-producer of this program, echoed Rowsey’s sentiments.

“It’s been so much fun to put together this show,” Kane said. “I’m just working with all my friends. It’ll be wonderful.

“But it’s not just that I know all these people—each one is an incredible, world-class performer. This show at The Argyros is a perfect opportunity for us to showcase just how talented some of the people in this valley really, truly are.”

The Argyros opened its doors in November 2018, with the mission “to enthrall audience and inspire performers” and to provide “a permanent theatre for local performers.”

Since then, it has hosted many local companies and has co-produced some smaller local events, but now, 15 months later, the organization is excited to produce its first-ever full scale all-local show.

“It’s fun that it’s happening at The Argyros. I’m thrilled by all the talent they’ve brought in over the months, but it’s nice to be in the space now with a local cast,” Rowsey said. “They have an amazing staff, so supportive, so collaborative—it’s just fun to be there.”

“Plus, their toys are pretty cool, too,” he said, referencing the theater’s lighting and sound capabilities.

As for the program itself, “It’s showstopper after showstopper,” Rowsey said.

Large-scale ensemble numbers will be punctuated by solo and duet performances, meaning each individual cast member will get some time center stage.

Taylor-Mauldin has organized the program in a way that begins by honoring the French roots of cabaret and then carrying through all the way to contemporary music, touching upon numerous genres and favorites en route, all the while offering as all-encompassing a vision of love as possible.

“A lot of people, when they think of cabaret, think of fishnets, crossdressing, bawdy, outrageous humor. Historically, it began as an opportunity for performers to get together and try their art out on each other. People would share their stories and their own evolution process in this intimate setting with no fourth wall,” Taylor-Mauldin explained.

“I love that idea and I love its potential for Valentine’s Day. This can be a difficult weekend for a lot of people, but this show isn’t about couples or singles—it’s about everything. We all love in different ways. We’re born loving and we’re taught to have other feelings.”

As Rowsey put it, “It’s an eclectic look at love. Hopefully we touch on everybody’s point of view at one stage or another.”

So, whether single or in a relationship or just avoiding all those labels altogether, people of all walks of life should have something to appreciate in “Love It!”

Valentine’s Day, after all, is not a time for cynicism or indifference. It is a time for love, whatever form it may take.

Performances will begin at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 14 and 15, at The Argyros, 120 Main St. S. in Ketchum. Tickets are on sale now at theargyros.org, ranging in price from $20 to $60, with that top tier gaining audience members cabaret-style seating with complimentary wine.

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